Dog tricks have a purpose beyond mere fun

A book emerged on a webpage in the “customers who bought this item also” area when I searched for a durable toy for my dog, Teddy the destroyer.

The book was “101 Dog Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond With Your Dog.” The 2007 book offered training secrets from trainer Kyra Sundance and her dog, Chalcy.

A book of dog tricks sounded perfect for my active lab.

On command Teddy will sit, lay down, and stand. When told to “watch me” his gaze doesn’t move. He nudges a string of bells on the kitchen’s sliding glass door when he wants to go out.

Picking up toys was the first trick Teddy and I would master.

Teddy was great at taking toys out of his toy box; putting them back, not so much.

The trick seemed simple enough.

Tell Teddy to fetch a toy. When he brings it back point to the box and say “drop.” Offer a treat held a few inches above the toy box.

As the pooch opens his mouth for the treat the toy falls into the box. Heap praise or in Teddy’s case, tummy rubs.

After several “fetches” and “drops” close but not in the toy box, success!

Well sort of, Teddy opened his mouth, the toy dropped squarely in the middle of the toy box. Then the pooch threw up squarely in the middle of the toy box, too.

Savannah Hoying, a local vet, taught her dog, Cooper, a redbone coonhound, how to turn a lamp on and off using target training.

A dog is told to “touch” a post-it-note and is rewarded when it does. As the pooch learns the trick the post-it-note can be moved to other objects or other words can be substituted for “touch.”

For Cooper, a sticky note was stuck on a lamp with a touch light mechanism. As the dog touched the lamp successfully “touch” was substituted with “light.”

Savannah believes dog tricks builds stronger bonds between owners and their dogs.

Ben and Christy Humphrys of Sugarcreek Twp. bonded with Allie, their then 5-month-old German shepherd, through exercise.

The Humphrys’ backyard isn’t fenced. Ben thought teaching Allie to use their treadmill would be a great way for her to exercise particularly in bad weather.

Training her was easy. Ben enticed her to step on the treadmill with a few treats.

He started Allie out on a slow speed gradually moving her up to their usual walking pace. Allie was quickly off the leash and walking on the treadmill without any assistance.

When Ben works out on the elliptical machine, Allie walks out on the treadmill usually matching his time.

The pooch, now 8, still enjoys the “treadmill trick.” Occasionally, when Ben is downstairs working on a project he’ll turn around, and there stands Allie on the treadmill ready to go.

I also want stronger bonds between Teddy and me.

Less food rewards and more verbal rewards might be the answer to the trick of picking up toys and dropping them in the toy box without throwing up.

Ed, my husband, volunteered his own assessment. Being tidy wasn’t a priority for “his boy.”

I was about to argue against his point when I glanced at the piles of work papers on Ed’s desk. An empty file box sat inches away from the cluttered mess. Like father, like son.

Back to the book for a different trick.

Karin Spicer, a magazine writer, has been entertaining families for more than 20 years. She lives in Bellbrook with her family and two furry animals all who provide inspiration for her work. She can be reached at

Benefits of training dog’s tricks

1. Builds bonds between the dog and its owner.

2. Builds a dog’s confidence.

3. Great for calming high-energy dogs.


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